Just weeks shy of the official start of the summer boating season, those headed out on the lake should expect to pay more for a gallon of gas than last year.

Just weeks shy of the official start of the summer boating season, those headed out on the lake should expect to pay more for a gallon of gas than last year.

A few years ago, people were feeling the sting of rising gas prices when they hit the $3 mark. Now it is creeping toward $4, and in some places on the lake has surpassed that.

While water lovers are used to paying more for gas, there may be an even larger gap this year due to changes in environmental standards. A new law that went into effect this year may impact how much marinas will charge.

As of the first of the year, the Renewable Fuel Standard now requires all gas to contain 10 percent ethanol, but there are a few exceptions, according to Ronald Hayes, Missouri Department of Agriculture division director for weights and measures.

Along with gas sold at airports, marinas are allowed to stick with the old standard because some watercraft engines and tanks are not compatible with the ethanol blend. A pair of marina operators said they recently paid about 17 or 18 cents more than what is being sold for retail at roadside gas stations. That hike does not include transportation and other expenses.

The cost per gallon on Lake of the Ozarks is falling in the neighborhood of $3.60 to $3.95 a gallon at area marinas. With fuel prices at an all-time high, many are left wondering what effect that will have on traffic. 

Mike Elia, boat rental manager at Alhona, says he thinks most people will still head out to play but may cut back or keep the anchor down longer.

“I think people will bite the bullet and still come here, but it will be a decision factor where people will chose their vacation,” said Tim Jacobsen, director of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau. “There will be people who don’t travel as much because of gas prices, but we are optimistic.”

For those who choose to stay home this summer, Jacobsen said he is hopeful tourists who want to take shorter trips make up the difference. 

“The lake benefits because of its proximity to large a population base. So we are hoping it has a positive effect,” he said.

Contact this reporter at charisp@lakesunleader.com.